Wake up and see for yourself! You're God, God-of-Angel-Armies, Israel's God! (Psalm 59:4-5, MSG)
I thought about addressing the question when it showed up in Psalm 44: Get up, God! Are you going to sleep all day? Wake up! Don't you care what happens to us? Why do you bury your face in the pillow? Why pretend things are just fine with us? (Psalm 44:23-24, MSG)
I bypassed the verse partly because it made me uncomfortable. Also because I'm not sure what to do with it, because in spite of these two verses, there are ten times more that describe a God that never sleeps. So David was using a poetic hyperbole (an exagerated comparison) to describe his feelings.
Do you remember the story of Elijah and the priests of Baal in their dramatic confrontation? When the priests called to Baal and slashed their arms, Elijah taunted them. "Maybe He's asleep."
Implied in the question is a basic assumption: If God was here, he would do something.
Come to think of it, the question from Psalm 44 echoes the question the disciples asked Jesus when he slept while a storm threatened to overturn the boat: The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" (Mark 4:39, NIV) That time, Jesus calmed the storm before he rebuked the disciples. "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" (Mark 4:40, NIV)
Well, yes, they had faith. They knew Jesus could calm the storm. Jesus was challenging them to have more faith. They asked "Don't you care?" Perhaps Jesus wasn't saying, "don't you believe I can calm the storm?" but rather, "don't you know I care?"
What would have happened on that day on that day on the Sea of Galilee if the disciples hadn't awakened Jesus? God would have saved them. . .but what would it look like?
How did God answer David? Unlike Jesus and the disciples, God doesn't rebuke David for his question. Like the disciples, God rescued him. Strong God, I'm watching you do it, I can always count on you--God, my dependable love. (Psalm 59:17, MSG)
What a dramatic name for God! "my dependable love" I'm going to bookmark that one.
So if the question is, does God sleep? The answer is no.
If the question is, why doesn't God act? That question has plagued us since the dawn of time, and I won't attempt an answer here.
If the question is, should we accuse God of not caring? There is no single right answer; and in any case, pretense is futile. God already knows what we're thinking.
If the question is, have we ever felt like God is asleep, deaf to our cries, blind to our needs? I suspect the answer is a resounding "yes."
God moves in, rescues us--whether taking the problem away or helping us get through it--and we learn more and more that God is dependable.
Today's favorite verse: I'm thanking you, God, out loud in the streets, singing your praises in town and country. The deeper your love, the higher it goes; every cloud is a flag to your faithfulness. (Psalm 57:9-10, MSG)